Frank Harris’ “Black Lives Don’t Matter” Social Justice Month Event
August Pelliccio – General Assignment Reporter
In the heat of the slave trade, Africans were not brought to America for liberty and justice, but for torment and terror. Attitudes from those times are still present today.
Professor Frank Harris III, the man behind these words, sparked conversation amongst students during Southern’s social justice event, Black Lives DON’T Matter. The event also featured a showing of Harris’ in-progress film, tentatively titled either “Black Lives DON’T Matter,” or “Through the Blood of the Slaughtered.”
Harris was asked to host an event for Social Justice Month in September; he pitched this idea to the Social Justice Month committee, and they approved. Harris said last year he previewed his then in-progress film “Journey to the Bottom of the n-Word,” so this year he wanted to preview the new film.
“I just love this medium for telling stories,” Harris said.
Harris said in working on these two films, he has become more comfortable with the medium, and he said he enjoys the different manner in which film can tell a story.
The approximate seven minutes of the film that were showed proved effective in relaying the message at hand.
“I know many people are unaware of the fact that black lives have not mattered through the history of this country,” Harris said. “I’m showing that reality.”
For a portion of the clip, natural sound effects and music were present, aligned with a slideshow of images, which panned and zoomed in a way that was reminiscent of Ken Burns’ style. Ocean waves, for example, were played over illustrations of loading and traveling on slave ships.
Southern freshman Shameil Eaton steered much of the conversation after the film’s showing.
“I was asking so many questions because it was only seven minutes,” said Eaton.
Eaton said he felt Harris’ film could have been a little more informative, but, again, it is a work in progress.
Eaton said in the short amount of time, “he didn’t really get to dissect what he was really trying to say.”
Harris said that the film has been in at least in concept stage since about a year ago, but his work began in earnest roughly over the course of the last month. All media in the film is from the public domain, save for a few video clips and photographs that are original to Harris.
Narration in the film begins, “There is a reason why it is said, ‘black lives matter.’” Harris continues, “These three words are an affirmation, and a recognition that throughout the history of the descendants of black Africans in America, whether those lives are young or old or somewhere in between, they have not.”
Harris explained that freedom means liberty, and liberty means life. When freedom and liberty are taken away, Harris said, an individual’s life ceases to matter.
Ammajah Sweeting is a sophomore, who after attending the event said that she thought it went well.
“I feel he was very proactive in explaining the ‘Black Lives DON’T Matter’ title,” said Sweeting.
Sweeting said her main concern was when the conversation turned in the direction of white privilege. She said it did not seem like everyone in the audience was on the same page during that turn.
“For the most part, I agreed with [Harris], but I saw it from a different perspective,” said Sweeting.
Harris explained one left over attitude from slavery. The myth that blacks have a higher tolerance for pain originated on slave ships, where doctors were there to keep the crew healthy and comfortable, but to keep slaves merely alive.
Harris said, “Writing is a passion of mine; I like telling stories.”
Photo Credit: August Pelliccio